How to Cultivate and Harvest Rosemary

Rosemary’s classic flavor and fragrance make it a Pioneer Dad popular culinary herb. The flavor is suited for Bar-B-Q meats, vegetables, stuffing and roast meats.Here’s how to cultivate and harvest rosemary so it’s available all year.

1. Care and cultivation 

In colder climates rosemary needs winter protection if the plant is left outside. It is susceptible to root rot if overwatered. Rosemary likes light, well-drained soil, with added sand. Water after the soil is slightly dry. Pruning can be done after the plant is established in a container or in the garden. Prune to remove dead leaves and stems. Growing rosemary indoors can be done if there is a sunny window in a cool room. It will require regular feeding and misting.

When it is time to harvest, trim only well-established rosemary plants. Its best to wait until new growth has hardened off, during summer and early fall. Do not harvest while the plant is blooming. Harvesting rosemary, for optimum flavor, just prior to flowering. Cut the stems above the woody growth and avoid any dry, brown or yellowing leaves.

2. Propagation of rosemary from cuttings

Established rosemary plants can be propagated with a few cuttings. The three main techniques for cuttings are:
• Cuttings from the young tender stems of rosemary: in the spring, but it’s also can be done in the summer after flowering. Choose stems that are 2 to 4 inches long, avoid the ones that have flower buds on.
• Cuttings from herb stems that have just started to harden: use as cuttings from the mid-summer until fall. Cuttings should be 4 to 6 inches long. Avoid stems with flower buds.
• Cuttings from established stems that have grown hard (no longer green): stems can be used for cuttings in the autumn. Choose stems that are 6 to 15 inches long.
Make a clean cut with clippers or knife just below the leaf nodes (the point where the leaves join the stem). There are more plant cells on this part of the stem to encourage root growth when the cutting is planted.
Trim cuttings by removing leaves just above the cut. Hardwood stems should have the growing tip of the stem removed before planting. Dip cuttings into a rooting hormone to prevent them from rotting while developing roots. Rooting hormone is a combination of Indole 3 Butyric Acid and Humic Acid. Brands that come in a plastic bottle with a cap are easier to use and store. Rooting hormone should be available at any nursery.
Fill starter pots or containers 3/4 full with a compost and sand mix and carefully push the stem cuttings into the soil. Bury the stems to a depth of about a 1/3 of their length. Transplant established plant cuttings to a depth of 1 to 2 inches.
Store the rosemary pots in a warm area, but out of direct sunlight to encourage the roots to develop. Keep the pots watered, but avoid over-watering. Softwood and semi-hardwood stems will form roots within 5 to 6 weeks. Hardwood stem cuttings take a longer. When the newly propagated cuttings are established, replant them in larger pots or in the garden.
Rosemary brought indoors for the winter should not be trimmed heavily during the fall to allow it to regain its strength for the winter. Remove yellowing or dead branches anytime.

3. How to harvest rosemary for storage

Rosemary should be dried quickly to retain its green color and essential oils. Long stems can be hung upside down in a dark area with good air circulation. Smaller stems can be placed on screens. Allow 4 to 6 weeks for rosemary to dry completely. Store for up to a year, in airtight containers, in a dark place.

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